A Valentine’s Gift of love that keeps on giving 16 years later

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It’s one of the fond pinnacles of my many years of marriage

By Juanita Bratcher


I’ve been somewhat of a pack-rat most of my adult life after getting my own place to live, but only with those things that I cherish and treasure and have no intentions of getting rid of right away…maybe never. They fit right into what I call precious, specific categories – they either have informational or personal value to me and something – more likely than not – that I would want to revisit, take another peep at and refresh my memory once again somewhere down the road.

These are things that passed my way at one time of another that I feel personal about or a personal attachment to. Or they’re things that I treasured at the moment, wanted to take them into my future, with no intentions of getting rid of them, if at all possible.

Many of these things I usually run across when I’m into some major house cleaning, others I know exactly where they are and at times revisit, re-examine and re-evaluate them as to their immediate relevance. You know, do I still need or want them? Is it time to get rid of them because of their waning usage and of needing the space for something else? We all make these evaluations from time to time.

I admit that I have a knack of wanting to hold on to certain things in the way of information or memories of “feel good moments” – souvenirs and the likes…memorabilia, that I accumulated mostly during my professional career as a Journalist/ news reporter/ author/ publisher.

I still hold on to the press identification tag I received when attending a press conference with Britain’s Prince Charles when he was in Chicago years ago, an autographed book from former President Jimmy Carter at his press conference in Chicago where he released his new book. I have pictures with entertainment personalities when they visited the historical newspaper, the Chicago Defender, where I worked as an investigative news reporter. I have a paper plate that was autographed by Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago, when attending a social event. I was assigned to the campaign trail of Washington. I have hundreds of articles that I wrote during my college days when seeking a degree in Journalism and in the starting years of my professional career as an investigative news reporter, which has now been some 37 plus years. And the list goes on.

But there’s nothing more dear to my heart than the empty Valentine’s box (now without candy) stored in my closet that was the last Valentine’s gift presented to me by my late husband, Neal A. Bratcher, Sr. in 1997, that I preserved, along with several artificial roses inside of a glass cage (a large souvenir) and a Valentine’s card.

I remember Neal always being in a happy and pleasant mood on Valentine’s Day. He was like clockwork – always showering me with a card, flowers and candy on that special lovers’ day. On Valentine’s Day 1997, for the first time, Neal gave me a large souvenir with artificial flowers encased in oak wood and glass. This was the first year he gave artificial flowers. In past years, Neal always brought fresh flowers with card and candy. Perhaps it was fate that he deviated from the norm and brought artificial flowers instead, because fresh flowers would not have survived even for several days. I am happy he made that decision.

I am by no means trying to live  in the past, even though I’m cherishing those loving memories from the past and cherishing a caring and loving husband who made me happy in life, an excellent father to our four children and a very civic-minded person who reached out to others.

In a book of poems I wrote and released in 1994, “I Cry For a People; In Their Struggle for Justice & Equality” one of the poems was written expressly for my husband, Neal. The title of the poem is “That Twinkle in Your Eyes”, which follows:


“That Twinkle in Your Eyes”

                   By Juanita Bratcher


I’ve looked in your eyes

For many, many years

Sometimes I saw smiles

Other times I saw tears

Sometimes I found anger

And yes, there was sadness

Oftentimes there was joy and untold gladness

But that twinkle in your eyes was always there

A symbol of the love we will always share

In your eyes I’ve seen grief

Other times they were bright

Sometimes there were mixed signals

Other times sheer delight

Sometimes there was patience

And impatience too

Your eyes said it all

About your feelings and you

But that twinkle in your eyes was always there

A symbol of the love we will always share

Your eyes said it all

Whether they were clear or red

There was something about them

And the secrecy they shed

Sometimes they sent a message

So concrete in thrust

And with the bat of the eyes

The message could instantly adjust

But that twinkle in your eyes was always there

It was a symbol of the love we will always share

When Neal read the poem he was elated. After his death in 1997, the lyrics were turned into a record. It was beyond my wildest imagination. And I wished that Neal was here to hear the song. But the card, artificial flowers, the empty candy box and the song – written by me – are memories that will be a part of my life forever.

Great memories are made of this. They will always hold a special place in my heart…even in death.

Here are some of my favorite love songs: You can hear them all on Youtube.com.

Love Will Conquer All – Lionel Ritchie

Have I Told You Lately That I love you? – Rod Stewart

Neither One of Us – Gladys Knight

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston

You Are So Beautiful To Me – Joe Cocker

Happy Valentine’s Day to all; and may you always have a “genuine everlasting love” in your relationships and marriages.

Juanita Bratcher is the Publisher of www.copylinemagazine.com, the author of several books, songwriter and poet. She has been a Journalist for more than 37 years covering politics, education and a wide-range of other topics. 

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